Recollection Stories

Shelby Park


Shelby Park is a small historic neighborhood two miles southeast of downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Named after Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, the neighborhood truly began in 1847. Settlement was slow until then, when the southern portion of the neighborhood was platted.  In 1891, the neighboring Germantown and Schnitzelburg neighborhoods gained a streetcar loop soShelby Park then experienced a larger influx of Germans in the neighborhood.  In 1908, the 17-acre Shelby Park, located in the center of the neighborhood, was established.  The park was designed by the renowned Olmsted Firm. From its inception, Shelby Park has always been considered a working-class neighborhood. 

Two important and historic neighborhood assets anchor the center of the neighborhood. In 1911, the Second Renaissance Revival, Carnegie-endowed, Shelby Park Branch Library was constructed on Oak Street in the park. The building was designed by locally famed architect, Arthur Loomis. Just one block east of the park at the corner of Oak Street and Shelby Street, the St. Vincent de Paul Church parish was established in 1879. The Gothic Revival structure was constructed in 1886, and a new façade was added in 1927. Across the street from the church is the neo-Classical, St. Vincent de Paul School and the St. Ursula Convent.

Eclectic architecture. Even though the park came later, which is why the houses back up on Camp and East Oak..There’s a famous Louisville architect, his buildings are in the neighborhood. Arthur Loomis. You know the St. Matts and our Carnegie Library. DX Murphy known for the Spires, the TwinSpires…Right now we have six on the National Historic Register. For whatever reason, this weird corner of Louisville just called and required different buildings, whether residential or commercial..I can’t believe I overlook and can sit on my front porch and I’m looking at an Olmsted, an Olmsted Park designed by sons in the firm. It’s definitely not using his principles, but I have a million dollar view…” – Chip Rogalinski

Much of the historic building stock remains, and residential properties reflect the neighborhood’s working class roots with shotgun style houses, bungalows, and American Foursquares. Shelby Park began to experience many vacant and abandoned properties starting in the 1970’s, which is also when the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) was formed.  The Jefferson County Public School system wanted to take over the park to build a school,until the neighborhood association stepped in to emphasize that the park was the heart of the neighborhood and historically significant to the history of Louisville.  The stigma that surrounds neglected neighborhoods often leads to disastrous city planning, but the SPNA was able to save the park and lay the building blocks for more sustainable housing.

The founding of the association came from I’m going to say an eclectic group of faith based leaders, and then after that women power. For eight years I’ve been the neighborhood association president. But before that, women. Dorothy Neiman, Miss Ella, Anna Wooldridge. Long line, compassionate, progressive, service focused.”– Chip Rogalinski

These days, Shelby Park has had a new renaissance of investment. Abandoned properties practically cease to exist.  Houses are being flipped and sold at high margins like neighboring gentrified neighborhoods such as Germantown.  However, the interim time between the neighborhood’s decline and its rise in popularity includes grassroots organization done by many members of the SPNA.  The fight against blight that once dominated the area has now become a question of how to keep Shelby Park a neighborhood for those of all incomes and races.  Many people have worked very hard to sustain this neighborhood, and as it is now blossoming, the neighborhood association is concerned with inclusivity and positive growth.  Long term residents are still revered and respected.  They hold the stories, the culture of this place.

Make sure that not only that the old lady on Social Security can still live in the neighborhood, and that the family who’s struggling down the street can still afford to live in the neighborhood, as well as the multimillionaire who has bought this property over here and is living can all live here together. I don’t know if you understand what I’m saying. I like to hear the voices of the children in the park. There’s all colors of children in the park and that’s what I like. That’s what it was when Robbie and I and our baseball bat and glove went over there. We didn’t care. And I want it to stay that way. I don’t want it to be one race. I don’t want it to be only the rich. I do not want it to be only 30 something’s. I want it to be Anna too, I want the elderly people; I want the young families; I want the middle of the road people to all be able to live here. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what color they are, to be just like it was when I moved in here, you know, that everybody from all facets of life can live in this neighborhood and be friends.”– Betty Kolb

Chip Rogalinski, former president of SPNA, stated, “We want this to be the epitome of a true, blended neighborhood. Chip connected House of Ruth with River City Housing, a nonprofit housing developer, and encouraged a project that’s under construction on Kentucky Street — a duplex that will rent to low-income men and women with HIV or AIDS.  These are the types of projects SPNA is working hard on.  Robert Bell, a member of the SPNA, told the Courier Journal recently “there’s a lot more talk about not wanting to see this neighborhood become a majority white, middle-class neighborhood and weeding out the people who’ve lived here forever.”  Many residents do not seem to shy away from the intricacies of gentrification – celebrating growth but concerning themselves with maintaining inclusivity and [the neighborhood’s] heritage.

This is obviously a gentrifying neighborhood. I don’t think there’s any way to talk around that. So the neighborhood has changed a bit in the seven years since I’ve lived here.  I know, there are a lot more people who have more money in our neighborhood than there used to be. You know, the vibe friendly. I see my neighbors, I say hi to my neighbors, they say hi, back. Like I said, you know that a lot of people who’ve been here for a long time have their own thoughts and opinions about what this neighborhood looks like now and what it used to look like. There’s a lot of pride in place in this neighborhood…I don’t moralize it is what I don’t do. To me, it’s a political issue with political solutions. 

I don’t like the term gentrifier when she’s describing someone who lives in a home or bought a home. I am okay with it when you used to describe someone, a developer or, you know, group of developers who are engaged in, you know, a long-term plan of, you know, changing the state of neighborhoods.

I do think it’s okay to use it to describe, you know, serial that house flipper…[Chip and I] were to get trying to get some funding from a bank for the renovation there…we’re thinking about having the various nonprofits open. We had the shelter, we’re gonna have that open and maybe like people can see that part of the neighborhood too, [Banker] goes…do you want people to see that part of your neighborhood? Like, they’re not gonna want to buy if they see this place for people with HIV or this place as a shelter for women in trouble and families in trouble. And we said, good, we don’t…. those are not the people we want in this neighborhood. But that’s what Chip said. He said, I want them to see it because if they see that they have a problem with that, they don’t want to see that open and then that’s clearly not the people that we want to live in this neighborhood.”-Robert Bell

One participant, Jack Trawick, who was the former director of the Center for Neighborhoods, recalls that SPNA was one of the earliest neighborhood associations formed in Louisville.  It was also the only neighborhood association to become a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO), which meant that SPNA was one of Louisville’s first neighborhood-based development organizations.  He recounts how the work he did with Shelby Park leaders was true grassroots organizing.  The process was slow and faced many obstacles by larger entities, but this work by and for the community was successful in addressing housing issues in Shelby Park.

“My first involvement with Shelby Park was we were approached, we had gotten involved in housing development and working with neighborhood associations to plan and carry out housing rehabilitation projects and housing, housing development projects. And this is kind of an outgrowth of the idea of community based development, communities working together to try to address issues of concern. Housing in older, urban neighborhoods is almost always one of the primary concerns because at that time, in the mid 80’s, there were a lot of vacant structures; a lot of bad landlords and bad income properties as they call them. And, and the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association was one that was one of the earliest neighborhood organizations that was created, both to organize the neighborhood but also to address housing…Ms. Ella was deeply connected in the Black community and then the movers and shakers in the black community. And so, her political influence was really, really important toward moving all of this forward, because it wasn’t just going to be a token thing. 

It wasn’t going to be the downtown saying, okay, well we’ll act like we’re doing something for this neighborhood.  And it was a pretty powerful period…The way that these projects were done is there was the CHDO Committee and the CHDO Committee was Reverend Beckemeyer, Earl Buehner, and Ella, and then I was their technical assistance provider. But really just, you know, we were all, we were all figuring it out at the same time…when Shelby Park became the CHDO or was able to become the CHDO or qualified, anointed or whatever, Shelby Park actually was the only neighborhood association that had been, that actually had been created in part to do housing.  And so Shelby Park of the CHOD’s that were created. There were about five of them. Shelby Park was the only one that was a true neighborhood based development organization…so Shelby Park’s come a long way. My hope is that eventually Shelby Park will be the bridge between Old Louisville and Germantown and, and it seems to be moving in that direction.”– Jack Trawick

What this project aims to capture is the enduring culture of long-term residents, the heritage that is felt by the physical places in this community, and a sense of a new transitional period where the neighborhood is now attracting young, middle-class homeowners and hip businesses.  Gentrification is definitely a concern and is felt and interpreted differently by various residents.  Shelby Park’s story is not limited to the many similar communities facing these same obstacles, but the care and dedication of long-term and newer residents to the neighborhood, especially SPNA members, is specific to this place.

“So we’ve been here for a minute. And I can’t even visualize leaving here. Our roots are so entwined here and the memories and all the things that we did. People have said to me, why don’t you move? … I have absolutely no desire to do that. This is our home. … This is where I live. This is where I’ll be. It is. I have no intention of ever moving… No, I’m not. Because I’ve not moved. This is my home.”– Ann Ames

This project was made possible by fundraising through SPNA and an oral history grant through the Kentucky Historical Society.  SPNA has offered support and trust in so many ways.  A special thank you goes to Betty Kolb, a resident, photographer, and cultural curator of her neighborhood.

This project would not have been possible without neighborhood partners Chip Rogalinski and Ann Ames.  Thank you to Chip for your passion and care for Shelby Park and RE//Collection.  Chip is woven into the very fabric of this neighborhood and a force in preserving its rich history.  Thank you to Ann, a long-term resident, mentor, and leader who embodies the compassion and spirit of this community.

The people that come here we have a sense of community, and a sense of fellowship. And it kind of goes from generation to generation. You know, it’s like the people when I first moved here, and the friendship they offered me. And then as time has gone on, those different kinds of friendships. And I think that’s what we’ve looked at the camaraderie and fellowship, the people that have your roots just become deeper and deeper here. Trust me.”– Ann Ames

All interviews were done in adherence to oral history standards and are raw audio.  You will hear background noise, from pets to traffic.  These recordings are set up in a documentary style.


Chip Rogalinski Pt. 1

Chip has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.  He was the president of the neighborhood association for several years until 2021. He is acting as a community partner to help shape the goals and needs of how this overall project will serve the community.

Herman Seedler

Herman was born and raised in Shelby Park, and his family goes back 4 generations in the area. He reflects on his childhood, going to St. Vincent de Paul, and several funny anecdotes.  His friend Ann Ames (another participant) and briefly his wife are also present in the interview.

Ann Ames

Ann is a long-term resident of Shelby Park and has lived in the same house where she raised her family in for 57 years.  Ann has been a member of the SPNA since its inception.  She also is a community partner with Recollection on this project.

Steve Magre

Steve is a resident of Germantown, a bordering neighborhood.  He was the alderman for the area including Shelby Park from 1979 to 2002.  He offers perspective on local politics and early leadership of SPNA.

Jack Trawick

Jack is the former director of Center for Neighborhoods.  He worked directly with the SPNA since the 1980’s to spearhead their housing initiatives and to help with the problems with vacant and abandoned properties.  He is very knowledgeable about past SPNA leadership and the history of SPNA.

Melody Taylor

Melody is a long-term, second generation resident of Shelby Park.  She and her husband Curtis have lived in the neighborhood since childhood.  She resides in her parent’s former house and raises her family there.

Pastor Jamaal Williams

Pastor Williams grew up in Chicago, IL.  He moved to Louisville in 2006 and became the pastor for Sojourn Church in 2016. He lives in Shelby Park, and he reflects on the relationship the church has to the neighborhood, raising his family here, and his neighbors.

Betty Kolb

Betty moved to Shelby Park when she was 12 years old in 1975 and lives there today. She has a deep connection to the park.  Trained as a folklorist, she frequently takes photos of the park as a hobby, but also as documentation.

Chris Heidenreich

Chris grew up in Shelby Park and still operates his construction business in the neighborhood. His parents owned a grocery store, and his family lived on the second floor.  His business office is still in the original grocery building.  He reflects on neighbors, his paper route, and how the community has changed over the years.

Robert Bell

Robert grew up in the Shawnee neighborhood of Louisville.  He and his family moved to Shelby Park in 2015.  Robert is a teacher, an organizer, and an activist.  He is currently running for the Kentucky State House of Representatives for District 43.  He served as the Vice President of SPNA from 2016-2019.

Bryan Burns

Bryan moved to Shelby Park in 2008 and then bought his first home there in 2011. Bryan also ran for Louisville Metro City Council for the district in 2016.  Bryan is a teacher and an activist.  His dogs and cat participated in the interview as well.

Chip Rogalinski Pt. 2

Chip has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.  He was the president of the neighborhood association for several years until 2021. He is acting as a community partner to help shape the goals and needs of how this overall project will serve the community.

Maria Gurren

Maria is the current SPNA president.  She is a social worker.  She bought her first home in Shelby Park neighborhood 6 years ago.  She reflects on her neighbors, how the community dealt with the pandemic, and the programming SPNA has going on at the moment.  In the audio, her dog Charlie is a part of the interview at times.